Slowly braised stews are my favorite kind of dish, and fall / winter is the season for them. Coq au vin is a French bistro classic. It is both homey and comforting, and at the same time sophisticated. Stews are best a day old. If serving at a dinner party – you can cook it the day before, and reheat before serving.
serves: 8 difficulty: medium prep time: 40 min to prep + 3 hrs to cook
- 8 chicken thighs. Or a combination of 4 highs and 4 breasts; or 8 whole legs
- 1 tbs whole black peppercorns
- 5-6 bay leaves
- 1 bottle (cheap) red wine
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 6 thyme sprigs
- 5 curly leaf parsley sprigs
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 16 oz can of tomatoes
- 1 lbs baby carrots
- 1 lbs button mushrooms
- 1 lbs pearl onions
- 6 strips of bacon
- 6 tbs olive oil
- 2 tbs butter
- 2 tbs canola or vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup Marsala wine (optional)
First prepare the chicken. Rinse each chicken piece with cold water, and pat dry very well with paper towel.
Place the chicken in a bowl, add 1 tbs whole black peppercorns, and 5-6 bay leaves, and pour enough of the red wine to cover the chicken. Refrigerate for 4 hrs up to overnight.
Once you are ready to cook the stew, remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, strain and reserve the marinade. Pat dry the chicken pieces with paper towel. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tbs canola or vegetable oil in a frying pan. Place as many chicken pieces in the pan as can fit without overcrowding the pan. Place the pieces first skin side up. Reduce the heat to medium, and brown the chicken for 3-5 min, and then turn skin side down, and brown for another 3-4 min.
Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces, and when done, remove from the pan, and place in a bowl.
Dice the onion, carrot and celery stalks.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Heat 3 tbs olive oil in a Dutch oven, and sauté the vegetables for 5 min – until they are soft and translucent. Puree the canned tomatoes and add half the can to the mixture (use the other half for something else).
Then add the reserved marinade, the rest of the wine and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
Add the chicken pieces. Tie the herbs – parsley and thyme – with kitchen twine and add to the pot.
Cut a lid from parchment paper that fits precisely inside the pot, and cut a whole in the center of it. Cover the pot with the parchment lid.
Place the pot in the pre-heated oven, and braise for 1.5 hours. After 1.5 hrs take the pot out of the oven, and using tongues carefully remove the chicken pieces from the pot, and place the sauce in a blender.
Skim off as much of the fat from the sauce as you can. Then puree the sauce until smooth. Taste the sauce for seasoning, and if needed – add some salt and pepper. Place the chicken pieces back in the pot, and pour the pureed sauce over them.
Cover again with the parchment lid, and place the pot back in the oven for another hour. When finished it should look something like this.
While the chicken is braising, you can cook the pearl onions, mushrooms, and carrots. If the mushrooms are larger than an inch in diameter, cut them in half or quarter. Heat 3 tbs olive oil and 2 tbs butter in a fry pan. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle some salt and pepper, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 20-30 min until the mushrooms are soft and caramelized. Add 1/4 cup Marsala wine (optional), cook until it has almost evaporated, and remove from the heat.
Cut the baby carrots in halves cross-wise. Place them in a stock pot, cover with water and boil until they are soft but not mushy – about 5-8 min. Add them to the cooked mushrooms.
Place the pearl onions in a stock pot (without peeling them), cover with water, and boil until they are soft but not mushy – 10-12 min. Remove from the heat, and place them in cold water to stop the cooking process and to make them easy to handle. Then peel the pearl onions, and to the mushrooms and carrots. Since the carrots and pearl onions have not been seasoned, sprinkle some salt and pepper on the cooked vegetables.
Finally, render the bacon. Heat a fry pan, and place the bacon strips in it (without any oil). Reduce the heat to medium-low, and render the bacon until crisp.
Then place it on some paper napkins or paper towels to drain the excess fat. Dice the bacon strips in 1/8 inch bits.
When you are ready so serve, ladle some sauce from the chicken pot in each plate, place a piece of chicken on top of it, and surround with some vegetables. Place bacon bits on top.
Pair with a good Chateauneuf-du-Pape such as (from low to high price) Le Vieux Donjon, Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, or Château Rayas.
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